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Part 2 of our World Adrift Studio will take place this summer (July) and is now open to applications

The Unknown Fields Division is a nomadic design studio that ventures out on expeditions to the ends of the earth to explore peripheral landscapes, industrial ecologies and precarious wilderness. These distant landscapes – the iconic and the ignored, the excavated, irradiated and the pristine – are embedded in global systems that connect them in surprising and complicated ways to our everyday lives. Each year we navigate a different global supply chain and seek to map the complex and contradictory realities of the present as a site of strange and extraordinary futures. Past journeys have traversed the mines of Madagascar and the Australian outback, the faded nuclear futures of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and the black military technologies and conspiracy theorists of the Nevada desert and Burning Man Festival.

This year we travel East to ride the waves of massive container ships and trace the shadows of the world’s desires along supply chains and cargo routes, to explore the dispersed choreographies and atomised geographies that global sea trade brings into being. These are the contours of our distributed city, stretched around the earth from the hole in the ground to the high street shelf. Consignments of the precious and industrial, raw and refined, mechanical and alive, drift across infrastructural seas on vast Panamax, Aframax and Suezmax from cavernous factory floors via huge ports like Shanghai, Singapore and Busan and through the bottleneck excavations of Panama and Suez. Our journey to Asia will take us behind the scenes of our modern world, cutting a cross section through the secret lives of products, where intense pockets of activity in wildly unexpected places supply cultures far removed with the fulfilment of their every need and desire.

Joining us on our journey will be international collaborators and specialists from the worlds of design, technology, science, art and fiction, and together we will form a travelling circus of research visits, field reportage, rolling discussions and impromptu tutorials that will be chronicled in a publication and film.

The Unknown Fields summer expeditions are open to all architects, designers, artists, writers and interested parties, students or professionals. A portfolio or CV is not required, only the online application form and payment.

Applications

The deadline for applications is 1st June 2014

You can make an application by completing the online application found under Links and Downloads on the AA Visiting School page. Or by contacting info@unknownfieldsdivision.com if you have any queries.If you are not able to make an online application, email visitingschool@aaschool.ac.uk for instructions to pay by bank transfer.

Fees

The AA Visiting School requires a fee of £1660 per participant, which includes:

  • £60 Visiting membership fee.
  • Flights from London
  • All internal transport
  • Accommodation
  • Entrance fees, meetings, consultants, workshops and all other group costs (excludes meals).

Please note: If you are based in Asia you can meet Unknown Fields on location and we can arrange a reduced fee that excludes return flights from London.

 

Field research from our China Seas expedition  - Jan 2014

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This year for Unknown FIelds Winter 2013 expedition we travel East, to China and beyond, tracing the shadows of the world’s desires across China Seas along supply chains and cargo routes, to explore the dispersed choreographies and atomised geographies that global sea trade brings into being. These are the contours of our distributed city, stretched around the earth from the hole in the ground to the high street shelf. Consignments of the precious and industrial, raw and refined, mechanical and alive, drift across infrastructural seas, suspended in maritime space on vast Panamax, Aframax and Suezmax, from cavernous factory floors via huge ports like Shanghai and Ningbo, Singapore and Busan and onwards to navigate the bottleneck excavations of Panama and Suez en route to the West.

Our journey to East Asia takes in a cross-section of this supply chain. From source to sea, we  chart the journey of this and that, bits and bobs and thingamajigs; wander wholesale markets the size of cities, trawling Yiwu’s 4-million-square-metre bazaar [supplier of pound-lands and dollar-stores across the globe, and responsible for 1,000 containers leaving China a day] via the mega ports of Busan, Qingdao,  Shanghai and Hong Kong our route takes in some of the biggest cargo infrastructure on earth, as we ride alongside containers of stuffed toys and arsenal scarves, setting sail along the shipping lanes of the East and South China Seas and beyond. Our design speculations operate within this dislocated city, where intense pockets of activity in wildly unexpected places supply cultures far removed with the fulfilment of their every need and desire.

 You can read an extended description of the studio here.

Sign Up Now! Applications close June 14th. Open to All.

The Unknown Fields Division is a nomadic design studio that ventures out on expeditions to the ends of the earth to explore peripheral landscapes, industrial ecologies and precarious wilderness. These landscapes – the iconic and the ignored, the excavated, irradiated and the pristine – are embedded in global systems that connect them in surprising and complicated ways to our everyday lives. Each year we navigate a different trajectory as we seek to map the complex and contradictory realities of the present as a site of strange and extraordinary futures.

In times past an anarchist community of pirates called Madagascar home.  It was an island beyond the law and off the map, a place of rogues, booty and bounties. These were outlaws moored on a marooned ecosystem. Set adrift 88 million years ago, the island is a castaway in the Indian Ocean, inhabited by a band of ecological stowaways. In this splendid isolation it has evolved into an unparalleled wonderland of the weird and unique, diverse and unbelievable.

A political coup in 2009 left the country adrift once more – isolated from the international community, deprived of foreign aid and conservation funding. One of the planet’s most precious ecological treasures is home to one of its poorest nations and it raises difficult and complex questions about the relationship between necessity and luxury. Amidst political uncertainty, the island’s fragile and unique ecology is being smuggled out illegally, boat by boat, gem by gem. Rare tortoises leave in rucksacks, forests are carved into the ebony fingerboards on Gibson Guitars or $1million rosewood beds sold in China.

In the run up to the country’s first election since the coup Unknown Fields heads to Madagascar to catalogue the push and pull of economy and ecology and to trace the shadows of the world’s desires across the landscapes of this treasured island.  Along our way we seek to uncover some of the complex value negotiations that play out across this unique island and craft new stories from statistics, data, predictions, projections, measurements and offsets.

The Division will venture through wild west sapphire towns and mining landscapes and trek through rainforests ringing with the song of the Indri in search of rare and undiscovered treasures, a menagerie of preciousness and scarcity, of rubies, minerals and exotic spices, of ring tailed Lemurs, ‘octopus’ trees, and carnivorous plants; of pigmy chameleons, tomato frogs and moon moths. We will travel by plane and pirogue, train and taxi-brousse, from rough roads to rough seas, to fishing villages and up rivers silted with eroded soils. Unknown Fields will reimagine a territory that is equally wondrous and scarred as we follow the trail of global resource extraction into the heart of the most unique ecosystem on the planet.

Joining us on tour will be international collaborators from the worlds of technology, science and fiction, and together we will form a travelling circus of research visits, field reportage, rolling discussions and impromptu tutorials that will be chronicled in a publication and film developed en route.

Eligibility

The Unknown Fields summer expedition is open to all architects, designers, artists, writers and interested parties, students or professionals.  A portfolio or CV is not required, only the online application form and payment.

Applications

The deadline for applications is 14 June 2013. Application forms and additional information are available online at: www.aaschool.ac.uk/unknownfields and applications can be submitted to: visitingschool@aaschool.ac.uk or contact info@unknownfieldsdivision.com for questions. All participants travelling from abroad are responsible for securing any visa required. After payment of fees, the AA can provide a letter confirming participation in the workshop.

All inclusive Expedition fee: £1500, which includes flights from London, all internal transport, accommodation, entrance fees, meetings, consultants, workshops and all other group costs (excludes meals). Please note: If you are based closer to Madagascar you can meet Unknown Fields on location in Antananarivo and we can arrange a reduced fee that excludes return flights from London.

+ £60 Architectural Association Membership. If you are already a member of the AA, this is not required.

 


The Unknown Fields Division is a nomadic design studio that ventures out on expeditions to the ends of the earth to explore peripheral landscapes, industrial ecologies and precarious wilderness. These landscapes – the iconic and the ignored, the excavated, irradiated and the pristine – are embedded in global systems that connect them in surprising and complicated ways to our everyday lives. They are the dislocated hinterlands that lie behind the scenes of modern cities. Each year we navigate a different trajectory as we seek to map the complex and contradictory realities of the present as a site of strange and extraordinary futures.

Here we are both visionaries and reporters, part documentarians and part science fiction soothsayers as the otherworldly sites we encounter afford us a distanced viewpoint from which to survey the consequences of emerging environmental and technological scenarios.

Join the division for our next expedition.

unknownfieldsdivision.com
aaschool.ac.uk/unknownfields

The Unknown Field Division is coordinated by Liam Young and Kate Davies.

unknown fields_unknown fields leaders on a chernobyl rooftop by johnathan gales

Unknown Fields Division leaders Liam Young and Kate Davies are interviewed for Thinking in Practice Issue 15. In the article they cover Mega-cities, apocalyptic narratives, Peripheral territories, fictions as infrastructure, the shadows of urban development and the urgency to define new modes of practice in architecture.

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Embedded journalist and designer Jessica Charlesworth joined the division for the final leg of our Alien Encounters road trip from Roswell, New Mexico to the Burning Man Festival. Jessica has documented her time with the division in this long post on CORE 77. You can also follow the division prepare their expedition as we build our old school bus as a solar powered nomadic studio , then we load it up with our Burning Man survival gear, and raid Walmart for  water and supplies. You can also see all of Jessica’s photographs from the expedition in the core 77 Unknown Fields gallery.

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Photography by Jonathan Gales and Jessica Charlesworth

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In Blueprint magazines roundup of the top graduates of 2012 4 graduates from Unknown Fields Strange Times: Far North Alaska studio have been recognized. Congratulations to Alex Laing for his project Ghost in the Spectrum, Dessislava Lyutakova for Harmonic Frequencies, Reo Suzuki for Theater for History Yet Unseen and Samantha Lee for Sedna, Landscape Supercomputer. The awards follow on from the success of  last years Never Never Lands: Outback Australia studio, where 4 graduates were also included in the same list.

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For the Summer 2012 Alien Encounters expedition publication Unknown Fields are collaborating with comic illustrator Kristian Donaldson to develop a graphic novel set in the landscapes visited across the road trip. The novel will follow a fictionalized Unknown Fields division as they explore the desert wastelands attempting to decipher the meaning of the black technologies they uncover on their way. Krisitan is a Texas based illustrator. His previous works include Brain Woods’ ‘The Massive‘ and ‘Supermarket’ .

The remote territories of the Australian Never Never are anything but empty. The history of these landscapes is one of nuclear testing, rocket launches and black military technologies. The skies over this red earth are scarred with the contrails of experimental weapons flights and charged with the militarised electromagnetic waves that reach out to US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Forgotten,  somewhere in this landscape, is an abandoned missile tracking station. From here Oliviu, in our Experimental Flight Lab, is launching a choreographed  flock of autonomous gliders, to drift through the air in silent protest.  Floating on engineered thermal currents their wingspan antennas broadcast white noise through the electromagnetic landscapes over Australia’s Pine Gap military base, momentarily jamming their telecommunications signals.

GRAVITYONE: A CHOREOGRAPHED TRAJECTORY

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THERMAL GENERATORS- A prosthetic implant in to the cliff, a technological augmentation, a point where the entire light weight architectural system prop on the ground through the use of an air column.

GLIDERS APPROACHING MILITARY BASE

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RECOUPING AERIAL TERRITORY

TACTICAL MILITARY OPERATIONS

GLIDER, DRIFTING OFF TRAJECTORY, ANOTHER ARTIFACT OF THE DESERT

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LANDING AND NESTING PROCEDURES